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warm-up nerves

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  • warm-up nerves

    Mostly my horses but a little mine too.
    I have a 7 yo homebred that is behind for her age due to my finances and injuries (both of us)/family issues.

    I took her to her first schooling show yesterday and she had a nervous breakdown in warm-up. Granted, it was a small, uneven grassy area but what did her in was the pony with the kid on it cantering up behind her. Mind you the kid and pony did NOTHING wrong but my girl was already walking on egg shells and eyeing the other horses. After that, she was spinning so she could watch all the horses at once. I finally bailed. Not wanting to end on that note, I took her to the indoor (where the dressage portion of this show was going on), mounted back up, and basically rode TR1 cold. After that, I stayed on and walked her around before my second ride. She never really settled down but stopped spinning and we rode TR2. Needless to say, she wasn't relaxed and my concentration was out the window (I'm geometrically challenged anyway and my circles left much to be desired yesterday) (I've only shown 3 times myself). Got scores of 58% on both.

    She was born on my farm but, over the last 3 1/2 years I've:
    Taken her to two different trainers both of whom rode her with other horses, one of whom took her trail riding with other horses.

    Taken her to two sensory clinics where other horses were doing scary things like wooden bridges, mattresses, tarps, etc. She did all of these things with them.

    Taken her to monthly dressage clinics at another farm (not held during the winter unfortunately - we started doing this last fall and have only had 3 this spring)

    At this point, I'm thinking about taking her to some schooling shows (mostly hunter rather than dressage around here) and paying a schooling fee just to ride in the warm-up. Given her melt down yesterday, I'm thinking a tube of quietex for her and maybe one of those little bottles of wine for me right before. I'm also thinking about another sensory clinic but asking some friends there to intentionally ride up behind and around her. Any other suggestions. Is the quietex a stupid idea? (notice I didn't ask about whether the wine was stupid. )

    Ironically, her mother did the same thing. I had previously blamed it on racetrack flashbacks but maybe it went deeper. I lost her to EPM before working through the issue. Really ironic is that her full sister doesn't have this issue at all and I also bred her and raised her the exact same way, including the same two trainers. She snoozes along the ring while other horses are jumping. (she's born to be a hunter)

    The day was not a complete bomb. We did get one really nice walk/trot transition in front of the judge and the last half of her last canter circle was very nice. And, several complete strangers came up and told me how much they liked her. Since I bred her, that felt very good.

    So, any other suggestions? Anyone else experienced this? Thanks!
    Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe

  • #2
    So, any other suggestions? Anyone else experienced this?
    I had this problem last year with my young horse. My trainer gave me some wonderful advice that worked right away! She said I should get off and chill on the side of the arena for a few minutes. When I got back on he was much better!
    Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger


    • #3
      Try to pick shows were the warmup facilities are adequate too.
      There is one venue near me that I refuse to show at because the warmup ring is small and gets way overcrowded. It is dangerous!

      We will also do some groundwork, outside of the warmup ring so as not to get in anyone's way, if my guy is not paying attention.


      • Original Poster

        Oh and...

        To add, we got there early and hung around by the rings letting her graze and watch things. She was a little nervous but pretty darn well behaved during this. I tried lunging but with little room and the area not being flat, that just made things worse. I walked around between classes and she was better but still got upset in the warm-up area so we mostly walked by the entrance to the ring.
        Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


        • #5
          She's just needs more experience, both of you . You did great. Don't even worry about the "show" aspect for right now. Just get out there and try to get relaxation. Than try to ask for her attention to stay on you. It's all just a matter of doing it again and again.

          I'm in somewhat the same boat with my 5 yo. Although she is NOT spooky at all, she can get pretty "upset" about certain things (usually it doesn't take her long to get over it though). I took her to our first schooling show a couple of weeks ago and she did great, but I had also taken her to the same facility twice before, once just to familiarize her with it, and once for a lesson. She was 10 times better at the show than at the first two occasions. I was so pleased with the way she handled the crowded warm-up, I almost scratched... .
          "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


          • #6
            Sign up and attend as many schooling shows that you can - just do it so much that BOTH of you are numb. It's nerves - which setlle (at least a bit) with experience.
            Now in Kentucky


            • Original Poster


              Thanks folks! Unfortunately, there aren't very many dressage schooling shows in this area. I went to this one before we were really ready because I couldn't find another one that seemed appropriate before late August. That's the reason I was thinking about hunter schooling shows and paying the schooling fee. If anyone has any info on smaller schooling shows in central Kentucky this summer, I'd love to hear about them!
              Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


              • #8
                I'm an eventer, but the hardest part at shows for me for at least two seasons was the dressage ring, no problem warming up over fences with 20 horses.

                I got dumped several times in the dressage warmup, ran out of the ring backward, and did the whole spinning thing.

                What worked first was lots of miles.

                What worked next was working her butt off. I'd spend 40 minutes warming up for dressage, most of that trotting. Change direction, do serpentines, stop and go again, leg yield. What I learned was to not be nice. You're in charge, not her. She needs to listen to you, put her head down, and go to work. If you can get her to drop her head, even if you have to take a strong hold of her mouth and really put your leg on and flex her hard several times, do it.

                What I found is that being soft and quiet and passive just gave my horse room to act on her own, stick her head in the air, freak out, then it was downhill from there. It was unsafe to me and to other people around me. When I started actively insisting that she put her brain back in her head, remember her training, put her damn head down, and trot forward into the bridle I had a big change. By putting her head down she was looking at other things less, and by me really pushing her to listen she had to start listening, and then she did start to listen and she got softer and I got softer as a reward as she wasn't giraffing around.


                • Original Poster

                  What I've found

                  We'll I've found four open or schooling shows in the next two months. None of them are dressage schooling shows but, oh well. I've got the show bill from one and am waiting on the others. The first one has a walk/trot division which includes a cantering individually class and trotting over poles. A little uncomfortable about showing against a group of kids but she has a number of adult beginner students so we'll see. Two of these shows are at places she has been frequently and the third is at a new place. Hopefully these will help us with her warm-up issues. Now if I can just find a few dressage schooling shows where I can figure out what a 20m circles looks like we'll be good to go!
                  Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


                  • #10
                    Well I bet you did better than you think you did...

                    I just came back from a show after one year of sitting on sideline. Little sucker was too busy entertaining himself than listening to me - he was not scared, just too hugely engrossed in what everbody other than me was doing, and he wanted to check out every single flower, every single door, every single poop, and every single horse. After giving him plenty of opportunities to behave himself, we finally had to have a few discussions in the warm up ring.

                    I think it was my very first time ever growling at him in public, quite unladylike, and in the very serene dressage ring nonetheless. Afterward, he got much much better, though still in want of some huge improvement. By the way, we know each other like no one's business and that was why I knew what I did would work. If he were genuinely scared, I would not have been so strongly insistent.

                    We eventually got this very deserving score of 60% T3, with a huge 4 rolling in for streching trot. Mind you, this is a horse that got 65% T4 with his eyes closed two years ago so you can imagine what a disatrous backward paddle it was. Ironically we got a better score for our first level test...

                    So... relax, take a deep breath. I bet you will do much better next time.


                    • #11
                      If you go to any schooling show, consider the following, presuming you are going to take at least one day to just focus on the warm-up.
                      As before, walk her in hand and let her see the warm up area.
                      Tack up, go out there, and trot her around for maybe 10 minutes or so. The hope is that you can do just a little and quit before she has a chance to act up. Put her away for an hour or so, then go back and do the same thing again. If you can get in 4 of these, maybe each one a bit longer, it should help. The idea is not to let her walk and think about things, but to go in do a little bit of work and let her think about that.

                      I don't know much about Quietex, never used it, but IMO might not be a bad idea...
                      We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                      • #12

                        If you are anywhere near Lexington, starting in June every Wednesday evening there is open dressage practrice tests at Masterson Station.

                        You can go school, practice the warm up with all the other horses around and then ride any test you want for $10. You can ride as many tests as they can fit you in (more or less first come first serve). No ribbons and you have to do the math to get your score, but well worth it for schooling practice.

                        It runs for about 4:30 until dark at the Masterson Station county park dressage rings on up on the hill.

                        Its a great summer tradition in central KY!


                        • #13

                          I was going to ask for advice along this same line. Showed my (then) 4 yo last year and he was progressing pretty well at the shows - could be really nervous sometimes but he got a lot better as the year went on. This year we're showing training level and he did OK at the first show. Took him to a schooling show yesterday at a facility I've never been to before. The show was held indoors - I took one look at the arena and I knew it could be a problem. Beautiful beautiful place but....they have a cafe along the side of the indoor. The church ladies were cooking lunch. They use the indoor as a meeting room or something for church so the judge sat up on a stage with a set of drums and some tables behind him. There were speakers on either side of the stage up on poles that looked like robots. They had wood stacked up behind the indoor. And so on....

                          The whistle blew, we came in and he ooogled the plants. Halt, salute, take off down the center line - gets to C and sees the judge and the drums and I can feel his eyes bugging out of his head, but no shying. Turn left, he gets one look at those speakers and I can hear his brain screech to a halt, as well as he himself! And so the whole test went that way. Every time he turned a corner, there was something else weird to look at. He goes blank and then recovers. At the end, the judge said - that was a mixed bag of a test you just rode - I gave you everything from a 2 to an 8! I told the judge it felt that way too!

                          And training level test 2 with the canter in those corners by C - phhhht! Not with the killer robots looking at him!! Same deal - marks all over the place from 2 to 8.

                          So I've been thinking about this and I conclude: only time and experience will cure this, right?? He doesn't bolt, he doesn't shy, he just LOOKS really really hard and blanks out on me.

                          My husband video'd it and my only consolation is that it doesn't look as bad as it felt! I was just sad because he is working *so* well at home - I just have to have confidence that we will eventually get to that point at a show as well.



                          • #14
                            Originally posted by oldernewbie View Post
                            ISo I've been thinking about this and I conclude: only time and experience will cure this, right?? He doesn't bolt, he doesn't shy, he just LOOKS really really hard and blanks out on me.
                            I myself will take a horse that looks first rather than bolts first any day. That means that horse is using his brain first instead of using his hiney first. That is my boy: he is hot, but he "always" look first. And all I need to do is to pet him when he looks at something that concerns him (that is very different from when he looks at something because he is interested in it by the way), he immediately gets his heartbeat down and we can start working. My experience is, these kinds of horses if handled by a cool rider, eventually become very reliable citizens, and those are the horses you can take to anywhere without problem. Now if he farts, takes off to the next county before something clicks in his brain and he stops to take a look? That will be a different story...


                            • Original Poster

                              My girl

                              My girl looks all right but, she was trying to look in all directions at once. Wanted to keep all the horses in sight and know what each was doing. Do hope to school at Masterson one of these days but, to do a summerbird event I'll have to take a vacation day. May do that eventually. The first schooling show I plan to hit we'll start with an in-hand class and decide what to do from there. Thanks folks!
                              Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


                              • #16
                                I have a looky horse too...he looks, assesses to see if it is okay to move on,,and then breathes. He is only quite youngas well....but i think TRUST is a lot to do with this these horses too.

                                Nice to hear that the looky horses turn into reliable citizens!

                                Mine is starting to turn out to be a dependable guy. \We, too, had a few meltdowns in the warmup arena at a big show at the start of this year. I decided to backpeddle a little and take him to only small local shows till we got our confidence. Seemed to be the best thing I did

                                But I agree...the more you can get your horse out the better it becomes!